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Brazilian business tycoon Eike Batista indicted for $16.5M bribes

By Andrew V. Pestano
Brazilian businessman Eike Batista, a former billionaire, arrives for a court hearing at the Rio de Janeiro Federal Police facility on January 31. He and former Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral on Wednesday were indicted on corruption charges over alleged $16.5 million in bribes. Photo by Antonio Lacerda/EPA
Brazilian businessman Eike Batista, a former billionaire, arrives for a court hearing at the Rio de Janeiro Federal Police facility on January 31. He and former Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sergio Cabral on Wednesday were indicted on corruption charges over alleged $16.5 million in bribes. Photo by Antonio Lacerda/EPA

Feb. 9 (UPI) -- Brazilian prosecutors indicted former billionaire Eike Batista and the former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, on corruption charges involving $16.5 million in bribes.

Batista is accused of paying Cabral, who oversaw infrastructure construction for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro state, $16.5 million in bribes. The men were indicted on charges of corruption, money laundering and criminal organization.

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The prosecution's efforts are part of Operation Efficiency, which is an offshoot of Operation Car Wash -- a massive investigation that has resulted in dozens of Brazilian business leaders and politicians being indicted on charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering over the scandal at Petrobras, a semi-public oil and gas company. Politicians are accused of accepting bribes -- either personal bribes or bribes distributed to their political party -- in exchange for lucrative government contracts.

Overall, 12 people, including Batista and Cabral, have been indicted in Operation Efficiency. On Wednesday, Batista and six others were interrogated for six hours at the Federal Police headquarters before being returned to the Gericinó Penitentiary Complex. Following his lawyer's guidance, Batista did not speak during the interrogation, Jornal O Globo reported.

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Batista is being held in the prison complex's Bangu 9 unit with six other inmates. If he had a university degree, under Brazilian law, he would have been sent to a special wing in the prison.

Police said Batista and the other suspects -- identified as "large business owners" -- are accused of laundering about $100 million, most of which has already been repatriated to Brazil. The suspects are accused of active corruption, passive corruption, criminal organization and money laundering.

Batista's $35 billion fortune plummeted after Brazil's economy crashed starting in 2014, which led to the collapse of his Grupo EBX conglomerate.

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